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Special Olympics College Clubs in North Carolina Join Forces!

Special Olympics College Clubs in North Carolina introduce a statewide leadership council called SOUL (Special Olympics University Leaders) created by college leaders for college leaders.

Please share a brief bio, where you went to college or are currently attending, what your major was/is and what you’re currently involved with (internships, jobs).

 

Logan Beyer attended Duke University as a BN Duke Scholar and a Truman Scholar, graduating in the Class of 2017 with a self-designed degree in Child Development: A Systems Approach. While on campus, Logan actively engaged in research and service. She focused especially on improving quality of life and promoting inclusion for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities, inspiring her to serve as the president of the Duke Special Olympics College Club and (with the illustrious Maggie DeWeese) to found NC Special Olympics University Leaders (SOUL). Since graduation, Logan has stayed committed to SONC and SOUL, while embarking on a term of service with AmeriCorp at a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in the Bay Area. She spends her days building affordable homes for low-income families, focusing particularly on ADA-accessible builds, and is in the process of becoming a court appointed special advocate for youth with disabilities in the foster system.

Maggie DeWeese is a senior at NC State, studying Human Biology. She is the President of the Special Olympics College Club at NC State, the Communications Intern at Special Olympics NC, doing undergraduate research in the Educational Psychology department at NC State, and the President of the Board of Directors for K2 Challenge, Inc.

Can you both tell me your story about how the two of you got involved with Special Olympics NC?

Logan: My inspiration for getting involved with SONC was the testimony of my cousin, Faith, an incredible high schooler with Down syndrome who has long considered the Special Olympics her second family. Faith’s love for the organization (plus my own love for basketball) convinced me to sign up for the Duke Unified team my first year of college. One practice in, I was hooked. SONC hasn’t been able to get rid of me since!

Maggie: I got involved my sophomore year of college through the Park Scholarship Civic Engagement Initiative. Each sophomore Park Scholar spends the year working with a local organization to develop something that the student and organization choose collaboratively. My project was to work with Nicole (a classmate) to start the NC State Special Olympics College Club.

Logan you served as President of the Special Olympics College club at Duke, and Maggie you are the current president at NC State.  Can you talk about the impact participating in the club had on your college experience?

Logan: Serving as the President of the Duke Special Olympics College Club was incredibly meaningful. I not only grew closer to the Duke student body and Durham community, but also made friends across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. On the local side of things, Special Olympics empowered me to bring Unified intramural sports to my campus. I had the privilege of watching my two worlds merge and become even more wonderful in each others’ company. SONC also provided me the opportunity to share the excitement happening on my campus with other leaders across our state and across the country; while the SO Global Youth Unified Exchange Program introduced me to the leaders pushing for inclusion in places as far away as Beijing and Shanghai. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Maggie: Working to raise awareness and provide community to individuals with intellectual disability in Wake County has been a monumental part of my time at NC State. Watching NC State join our club to create a welcoming and inviting place for people regardless of ability has been incredible. Unified intramural sports and rivalry series have transformed our campus’ willingness to get involved, Spread the Word to End the Word campaigns have changed the way people think about the words they choose and joining together with local K-12 schools to encourage the Unified Movement has been encouraging. I don’t know what my college experience would have been without Special Olympics.

What is SOUL?

Logan: SOUL stands for Special Olympics University Leaders! Our aim is to create a network of support for college students across the state of North Carolina who lead Special Olympics clubs and who hope to advocate for inclusion on a broader scale. Specifically, SOUL aims to accomplish 3 main goals: (1) to support the development of new Special Olympics College Clubs, (2) to connect college-bound high school seniors to these clubs, and (3) to connect clubs to one another. Ideally, this collaboration will result in universities across the state sharing effective fundraising, event planning, and advocacy strategies; while simultaneously facilitating intercollegiate Unified competitions. Of course, as with all Special Olympics organizations, SOUL strives to put athletes first – both by creating a constant stream of young adult partners and volunteers and by planning activities that promote inclusion through sport across the state. If SOUL can accomplish all these goals, we will consider our work a success!

What prompted you to want to develop this leadership team?

Maggie: Logan and I were invited to participate in the National Unified Champion Schools Conference last year in Columbia, SC. We quickly became good friends and as we were discussing the things happening on Duke and NC State’s campuses, we realized how closely they aligned. Simultaneously, we realized that it was silly that we, having lived roughly 20 minutes apart for all of these years, had never discussed the new ideas and challenges we faced on our individual campuses. Logan and I, along with leaders on other campuses, had almost never spoken to one another and we knew that we were wasting one of the most valuable resources as a leader in the Special Olympics Movement.

Who is involved with SOUL?

Maggie and Logan: As we launch into our first year of SOUL, our community has already grown to include SONC staff and college leaders from universities all across North Carolina. Representatives from Duke, NCSU, UNC, UNC-Charlotte, Wingate, Davidson, Appalachian State, UNC-Asheville, Winston Salem State, and Mars Hill University have all come together to share their expertise and further the Unified movement. As our organization grows, we aim to inspire the spread of SO College Clubs to even more campuses – expanding both our leadership team and our impact. We’re also currently working on how to best incorporate the voices of college-aged athletes, making sure their voices stay front and center as we move forward.

As university leaders, what are you looking to achieve with SOUL?

Logan: My hope is that SOUL brings people together, building friendships both among NC college students and also between these students and Special Olympics athletes. Once passionate people from across the state are introduced to one another and have the opportunity to share their resources, knowledge, and enthusiasm for inclusion, there will be no stopping them.

Maggie: I agree with Logan 100%! In addition, we are looking to achieve some specific goals.

  1. We want to be a resource for one another as we develop and create ideas for the 2017-18 Special Olympics College programs on our campuses this year
  2. We want to create a How-To Guidebook for how to start a club on your campus. This will include information ranging from “how to create club bylaws and a constitution” to “how to recruit members” to “how to start a healthy athletes program on your campus” to “how to host a unified rivalry series game” and everything in between.
  3. We want to create a Spread the Word to End the Word video with leaders on campuses across NC (coaches/chancellors/students/etc) speaking about why they don’t use the R Word.
  4. We want to take all of the info that we gather this semester and then visit with student leaders on other campuses to encourage and provide resources for them to start Special Olympics College on their campus.

If I am a college leader looking to start a Special Olympics College Club on campus, what advice would you give?

Logan: START THE CLUB!!! And know there are other leaders across North Carolina who have been where you are, and who would love to help. If you plug into the SOUL community, you will gain access to a diverse array of logistical “how-to’s” amassed from SO College Clubs across the state, as well as a committee of leaders who are committed to sharing advice and inspiration. We are here to provide whatever resources and encouragement you might need to get started on this incredible journey!

Maggie:  DO IT. If not you, then who!? One of the things that surprised me when we started the club was people’s willingness and quick decision to get behind and support our program. Special Olympics has become such an incredible part of what NC is all about that people know and love the mission of the organization. As the Unified movement progresses across the state, more and more high schoolers are graduating and seeking ways to continue their involvement with Special Olympics. There has never been a more perfect time to start a club on your campus. Reach out to the support systems that exist in NC. From headquarters and all the SONC staff to your local program to other students in NC who have “been there, done that” to your campus, everyone wants to see you succeed in your decision to start an SO College chapter. Don’t waste time waiting to ask the important questions. Don’t be afraid to ask.

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